How can we ensure the transition to a shared bedroom is successful?
Well firstly, to put a parent’s mind at ease: often the transition to a shared sleep space is actually super smooth, and the worry of making it happen is worse than the process itself.
- Are your children naturally good sleepers?
- Have you established a really solid bedtime for your children, so they know and understand expectations around sleep?
- Have you set up the optimal sleep environment prior to moving siblings in together?
If your children are naturally good sleepers, then it’s likely that the transition will not phase them. Sure, there might be a few nights of “ooh this is new, this is a bit fun” but, overall, it’s about sticking to your bedtime routine and setting some boundaries, if need be.
There are a few ways to manage bedtime itself – and it takes into consideration your individual children’s sleep needs and sleeps routine.
You can do a staggered bedtime, depending on the age of your children and their schedule, i.e., putting your younger child down first and spending on their routine, or if you have a child that is better and quicker at settling, then they can go down first.
Alternatively, if you put your children down at the same time, they will likely chat, but after a few days, the fun will wear off and sleep will settle.
The key, in my opinion, is having the room set up optimally for sleep. If the room allows, this could mean spacing the beds out as far from one another as possible. It’s also important that as your children get older, they are given their own personal space, and the position of beds within the room allows for this.
We all make noises in our sleep, so the use of a white noise machine between the beds can greatly benefit sleep – buffering out any sounds from within the room and externally, of course.
A lot of parents are afraid that if one wakes and cries, it will wake the other – that’s why the white noise machine is awesome. But also, children often don’t wake in the middle of the night from noise, this is more likely going to happen in the early hours of the morning, when sleep is a little more fragile.
Keep the room nice and dark for nights, so that it’s a bit boring and they aren’t distracted by what they can see around them. If you have an older child that may have expressed a fear of the dark, the use of a low-lit red night light would be my suggestion. It has the least impact on sleep cycles and isn’t as stimulating as a bright white light. Also, remember that the presence of a sibling in the room, may also aid in moving away from being afraid of the dark
As children get older, the key is always about communication. So, your older toddler/ pre-schooler understands not to wake the baby, if that’s who they are sharing with, you can use a wake to sleep clock perhaps that indicates to your older child that they can get up at a certain time as per what the clock says – that way it may help with any early morning wake up calls and waking a sibling.
Boundaries. Like with any part of parenting, setting firm but fair boundaries is important. It allows your children to understand expectations – in this case, around bedtime and getting up. You may want to allow time for your children to have a chat before bed, but then there comes a time where you call time out on that and turn to getting them to sleep.
If you have a baby sharing with an older child, and the baby is still waking overnight, determine whether it’s becoming an issue and perhaps work on their sleep before moving them into together. I have worked with many families of twins or siblings sharing a room, and I always divide and conquer. If one is having sleep issues, I move the other child out first onto a mattress in with mum and dad, if need be, and then we work on the other one’s sleep, before moving them back together.
You have to remember that as they get older, and the novelty wears off, room sharing gets better and better, and the comfort of having someone in the room overnight might be just what everyone needs, and you might find they don’t sleep better with someone right there.